Intellect and innovation for warfighting capability.

A Month On From #DEFAus17: An Officer Cadet Breakin’ It Down

January 2nd, 2018 by Brent Moloney


This post was first published on Central Blue. Reposted here with thanks to Central Blue for their permission.

#DEFAus17 is the key event for the Australian Defence Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF), affiliated with the US and UK branches as well as the Kiwi Defence Innovation Centre of Excellence. DEF Aus is a network of serving military personnel who debate future concepts and progress ideas to tangible action. In this post, Brent Maloney summarises the key ideas he took away from #DEFAus17, and how it has motivated him to drive change in Defence.


“We need bottom-up innovation, top-down is too conservative.” 

– Alastair MacGibbon, DEFAUS17 Keynote speaker

Defence Entrepreneurs Forum Australia 2017 (#DEFAUS17) was for me, and many others, an entirely new experience filled with a mixture of young and less-young eager minds with burgeoning potential. A beautiful place, where a crowd of junior leaders were revved-up by the backing of their commanders and schooled by experts from various avant-garde positions in their respective industries. After sufficient motivation and insights into the future, junior Australian Defence Force (ADF) and Australian Public Service (APS) leaders pitched their ideas to a primed audience and a panel with the requisite influence to initiate change.  

It is a forward thinking few days where new ideas can bypass the quagmire of traditional rank structure allowing juniors to connect with and inspire senior leaders. Think of the reality TV show Shark Tank, replace the venture capitalists with senior and influential Defence members and the over-dramatic American entrepreneurs with highly motivated junior Defence leaders attempting to improve the way we fight and serve the nation.

As a fresh Officer Training School graduate, wide-eyed and intrigued, without an idea of my own to pitch, I was determined to learn something from someone and improve myself based on whatever I was to hear. To quote the silver-tongued South Central Los Angeles-based poet, O’Shea Jackson Sr. aka Ice Cube, I was down for whatever. The below is a much condensed version of the events, from which I learned much and which prompted me to explore an issue that I’ve experienced and believe needs improvement in Defence. 

The pitches and the pitchers: 

  1. Solomon Birch – Gamifying Individual Readiness – Winner, Best Idea
  2. Annie Collins, Chrisafina Rick, Steve Funnell – Military Mindfulness App 
  3. Cliff Brown and Matthew van der Vloet – Joint Education Capability 
  4. Captain Chandra and Captain Moses, Army – REBOA Training in the ADF using artificial environment simulations 
  5. David Caligari – Land Force Insights 
  6. Nicola Bilton and Joyce Mau – Rapid 3D Imaging 
  7. LEUT/Dr Ashley Wallin – Obesity in the ADF 
  8. CAPT Jay Douglas – Digital Vuee Tuee 
  9. Harry Wagner and Zac Tucker – Electrifying the Force 
  10. LT Ben May – 360 Degree Reporting for Field Forces 
  11. Chris Elles – Blockchain 
  12. David Ashmore, Geoff McMillan, Bryan Masters – Plugging the Gap 
  13. Anthony Hogan and Carl Bird – Military ethics education playing cards 
  14. Chris Elles, Rob Morris and Luke Morton – Innovating for a winning edge 
  15. Richard Thapthimthong (@RichieTTT) – Developing character 

The invited speakers – follow the links to watch the videos on the Grounded Curiosity website: 

#FutureFight 

Mr Alastair MacGibbon (@macgibbon) – Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Cyber Security

  • Cyber threat is one of the biggest threats to Australia  
  • Policy, repetition and lethargy in technological change has increased our risk of cyber-attack – case in point: 2016/17 Census hack. 
  • World is losing trust in governmental processes. Conservative military organisations need innovation, which will often be met with a brick wall – be sure to push back.

Professor Genevieve Bell (@feraldata) – Reading the Future: how we think about security 

  • 20 billion-coming connected technology = 20 billion hackable bits of technology. Example: Robotic vacuum cleaners currently on the market will map out your home – what is to stop that data being put up for sale? Nothing. 
  • If everything is connected, everything is collected, and therefore everything is hackable. 
  • Data is always retrospective and it is always partial. 

Professor Bell described how future urban guerrilla warfare may include hacking of infrastructure rather than hacking of platforms – she provided the example of the ‘graffiti’ on this traffic sign, which can confuse the artificial intelligence systems of self-driving vehicles [Image credit: futurism.com]

Kerstin Oberprieler – (@kerstinoberprie) – Gamification 

  • Higher purpose, creativity, mastery, ownership, autonomy – just some of the individual benefits of the gamification process. 
  • Game mechanics already exist in our life: rewards programs encourage you to come back for more rewards – eg drink 5 coffees to get 1 free, at school you must pass an exam to ‘level up’. Building on these basic mechanics in favour of fun will nudge behaviour. 

#InnovationatWar 

Lieutenant Colonel Claire O’Neill (@clareoneill) – Innovation for the Profession of Arms 

  • We need to use the innovative opportunities in the various contexts in global confrontation. 
  • Marrying the what with the who – who do we need to be to fight our future conflicts? Resilient, adaptive, innovative, flexible people. 

Colonel Ian Langford (@ianlangford) – How We (Might) Fight: A discussion on the Australian way of war 

  • War is fighting, fighting is killing – Clausewitz 
  • Strategy requires 3 thinking points: geography, political ideology, economy (the means to make war). 
  • Innovation is great, applying innovation is what matters.
  • Agility is key to success in a dynamic world. Speed is the new currency. 

Dr. Deane-Peter Baker (@DPBEthics) – The Ethics of Military Innovation: Some Principles 

  • Based on the Slaughterbots video: designed to scare and deter 
  • Fighting in cities is our biggest future challenge. 
  • Banning autonomous weapons will make no difference to the future of warfare, because machines can be created by anyone relatively inexpensively. There will be no way to stop someone who wants to make an automated weapon. 
  • There are always  countermeasures.  

#PracticalInnovation  

Group Captain Jerome Reid – Plan Jericho: Pragmatic Innovation for Military Strength – aka Air Force’s biggest disrupter 

  • Air Force will have the newest aircraft, but without Plan Jericho, they are just new aircraft and not better integrated capabilities. 
  • Ask game changing questions and look outside the box to find answers. 
  • Air Force is introducing a Certificate in Design Thinking – for those looking to improve.

#Innovation 

Phil Hayes-St Clair – (@philhsc) – Ten reasons why entrepreneur s win

  • Work hard + ship imperfection (send out your product even if you think it isn’t perfect and be embarrassed early to ensure the product is not just for you but for your customers. Be prepared for critical feedback.) + be organised + use judgement (but not just your own!) 

Stephan Wildenberg and Colin de Vries – Development MoD Netherlands – Future Logistics 

  • Their logistics department supplies their entire defence force.  
  • Sent a 3D printer to their forces in the field, which allows designs to be made anywhere in the world and sent to the 3D printer on site for immediate use. 
  • Augmented Reality – a heads up display (HUD) that allows the wearer to perform multiple tasks (e.g. a medical 9-liner request, video conference with your commander in the field etc) and see useful information in real time directly in front of your eyes (eg a casualty’s vital signs). 

LT Connor Love and LTCOL Dan Wilson (@dan_wilson227) – USAPAC Greenbook 

  • If you start with something bad, leave it behind. 
  • Older people can sometimes recognise patterns a bit better because they’ve seen them over the years, how do we get that ability to younger leaders – OODA Loop perhaps? 
  • If you have the ‘answer’ use feedback and experience to prove it to someone else. No one cares about your idea – you need to convince them. 

#LearnandAdapt 

Professor Dan Marston – Learn and adapt but still lose… 

  • “We are turning our backs on our experiences already…that is extremely dangerous.” 
  • All wars offer important lessons, however, ideas and strategies will be cherry picked, removing context. 
  • What we are missing: robust debate and forethought about the next war  
  • If we do not learn from conflict and debate these points, we’re in trouble when the next war arrives. 

Interested in getting involved with DEFAUS in 2018? Follow @DEF_Aus and https://www.facebook.com/defaustralia for more inspiration, innovation and professional debate.

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